It’s Julie James release time again. Huzzah! There’s one release each year by James and it always brings excitement for me. The Thing About Love was pretty addictive because Jessica and John have a I-dislike-you-but-I-totally-wanna-fuck-you attraction going on that made this such a fun book. Their initial dislike isn’t really dislike, but wrong timing and crossed wires.
FBI agent Jessica Harlow is newly divorced from her hollywood producer ex-husband. Jessica has been transferred back to Chicago from LA and she’s happy to be home with her family. Despite the hurt over how her marriage ended, she’s excited to go back undercover and catch some bad guys. Her new assignment is nabbing a popular city mayor who is taking bribes. Jessica will pose as a potential business investor into the city, and she cannot believe it when she’s introduced to her new partner, John Shepard; her fierce rival back from the Academy. The former Ranger is still arrogant, cocky, and ever so damn sexy.
John Shepherd loves his work as an undercover agent in the FBI. He loves the gritty work of going undercover and catching some serious bad guys. But there are negatives that come with the job and that’s being away for long periods. It put strains on relationships. John arrives home and finds his girlfriend fucking one of his closest friends, Rob. John swiftly cuts all ties and is at a crossroads in his life. But soon after he is contacted about an opening in the most elite unit in the FBI–the Hostage Rescue Team.
This is John’s dream job and he goes for it. He has one last undercover assignment and he cannot believe his luck when he sees Jessica Harlow. The very same Jessica Harlow who knocked him on his ass back in the Academy. She was always one step ahead of him in the brains department, and he’s still smarting over her rebuffing his attempts at his friendly encouragement during their training at the Academy.
What I love most about this book is John and Jessica’s banter. Jessica is so full of confidence and wit. She makes me smile and laugh and she has no hesitations in showing John just how on-point she is in the investigation. And of course John has to one-up her and show Jessica just how on-point he can also be, and that he isn’t just all muscle and sexy rawrness. There’s some good old fashioned rivalry between them that never once crosses the line into any asshole behaviour. There’s an awesome time lapse in the book that covers their time at the Academy from both POVs, and James manages to provide both sides of the story with humour. I found myself understanding why Jessica had to rebuff John in the Academy. She was only one of two female agents and becoming friendly with the hottest guy in their class could produce some unfair whisperings. John being a Chicago native like Jessica wanted to be friendly, and only wanted to encourage and give support when she struggled in certain situations. But his encouragements came off as cocky and arrogant. They left on very unfriendly terms and both held grudges towards one another.
Back in the present John and Jessica have to deal with their antagonism from the Academy, though they never once allow it to affect them professionally. They clear the air like adults, though a friendly rivalry remains. It’s not long before into the job, with the adrenaline flowing, that these two act on their attraction. I started crushing on John myself. Rawr. James has such talent for character details and dialogue. The dialogue is just amazing in this book and watching Jessica and John verbally spar back and forth was like foreplay.
The first half of the book is slow-paced because it’s jam-packed full of descriptions and details, so while the research seems A+ on the workings of the FBI, I found myself quickly reading those passages. When Jessica and John finally come together, their smexy encounters felt a teeny abrupt and quick and I would have liked to have seen longer scenes building up the tension. But the second half more than made up for it. Their respect and admiration for each other grows not only in the professional sense, but personally too as they share their heartaches with one another.
All in all this is a fun and enjoyable romance, though a little predictable. But it’s a great kind of predictable because you know you’re gonna get a deliciously romantic and sexy read.
I give The Thing About Love a B